Op­po­si­tion party uses mine spill to at­tack Amer­i­can en­vi­ron­men­tal agency


U.S. author­i­ties say rivers tainted by last week’s mas­sive spill from an aban­doned Colorado gold mine are start­ing to re­cover, but for the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, the po­lit­i­cal fall­out from the dis­as­ter could linger.

The agency’s crit­ics are al­ready seek­ing to use its han­dling of the mine spill to un­der­cut the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s roll­out of ma­jor reg­u­la­tions aimed at cut­ting green­house gas emis­sions at the na­tion’s power plants.

Both houses of the U.S. leg­is­la­ture are plan­ning hear­ings af­ter they re­turn from Au­gust re­cess.

“The EPA is sup­posed to help pre­vent en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phes, not cause them,” said op­po­si­tion Rep. Steve Scalise. “But, sadly, Pres­i­dent Obama’s EPA has been too busy threat­en­ing Amer­i­can jobs with rad­i­cal reg­u­la­tions in­stead of fo­cus­ing on what should be their core mis­sion.”

EPA and con­tract work­ers ac­ci­den­tally un­leashed 3 mil­lion gal­lons of con­tam­i­nated waste­water as they in­spected the idled Gold King mine on Aug. 5, just two days af­ter Obama un­veiled his Clean Power Plan.

At least 15 states say they plan to sue over the new car­bon re­stric­tions, and coal-min­ing back­ers like up­per house law­maker Mitch McCon­nell are urg­ing states to sim­ply ig­nore the new car­bon rules from Washington.

Over the last week, even rul­ing Demo­cratic Party law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing states af­fected by the spill have crit­i­cized the agency’s re­sponse as ane­mic.

On Tues­day, EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gina McCarthy gave a pol­icy speech about the new car­bon-re­duc­tion pro­gram at an event in Washington, D.C.. But at a news con­fer­ence af­ter­ward, ev­ery ques­tion was about the mine spill. McCarthy said her agency takes full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­ci­dent and ex­pressed deep sor­row for the en­vi­ron­men­tal harm caused to the An­i­mas and San Juan rivers.

The EPA chief then left for a two­day fence-mend­ing trip to the west of the U.S. aimed at show­ing that her agency is re­spon­sive and com­pe­tent.

For op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Party fig­ures, it was an op­por­tu­nity to put the EPA on the de­fen­sive.

“I think we have seen what hap­pens when the EPA comes af­ter pri­vate in­dus­try — they come af­ter them with heavy hand,” said Sen. Cory Gard­ner, a Repub­li­can. “Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and we have seen a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­or­di­na­tion.”


Wa­ter flows through a se­ries of sed­i­ment re­ten­tion ponds built to re­duce heavy me­tal and chem­i­cal con­tam­i­nants from the Gold King Mine waste­water ac­ci­dent, in the spill­way about 400 me­ters down­stream from the mine, out­side Sil­ver­ton, Colorado, Fri­day, Aug. 14.

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